North's commodity production drops

NNSL (July 12/99) - Mineral production in the North has fallen dramatically, the latest Natural Resources Canada figures show.

In 1998, the most recent year for which numbers have been released, the combined mineral production of the Northwest Territories and Nunavut fell 27.5 per cent to $578.7 million from $798.2 million. That's a $219.5 million drop from 1997.

A 74.1 per cent drop in the value of gold production accounted for the largest share of the decline, according to a Statistics Canada bulletin released by the GNWT Bureau of Statistics.

Gold prices in 1997 started around $350 US an ounce but fell by the end of that year to around $306 US. Last year, the commodity rose above the $300 US mark but fell back to around $287 US by years end. So far this year, gold continues to take a beating. Last week, the precious metal hit a 20-year low.

Crude oil and zinc also contributed to the lower NWT mineral production numbers.

For oil and particulary zinc, the decline in value was almost entirely due to decreased commodity prices.

For zinc, the value of 1998 production fell 13.5 per cent while output actually rose 4.6 per cent.

Although 1998 was somewhat disappointing in terms of the overall value of mineral production in the NWT and Nunavut, a positive was the startup of the Ekati diamond mine.

For the final three months of 1998, Ekati produced 278,000 carats valued at over $53 million.

Ekati's full production rate is expected to be 250,000 carats a month.

Overall in 1998, the NWT and Nunavut accounted for 1.3 per cent of total Canadian mineral production. But lead and zinc production accounted for 19.3 and 18 per cent of Canada's total production for these commodities respectively.